A History and Style Guide of Kyokushin Karate

Kyokushin History and Style Guide Introduction: You walk into the karate tournament as a spectator and immediately notice the difference. Rather than referees solely acknowledging points, you actually hear the grunts from opponents that signify a strike has landed. There's no need to guess at the damage a connecting strike may have caused; rather, you see it firsthand. We're talking full contact karate, people.
And in this case, the style goes by another name as well.


The Founder of Kyokushin Karate Mas Oyama and His Martial Arts Background

Masutatsu Oyama (then Choi Yong-i) was born on July 27, 1923 in Il-Loong, Korea during the Japanese occupation of the area. When very young he was sent to live on his sister's farm in Manchuria and began learning martial arts for the first time there from a Korean man when he was only nine years old (Chinese Kempo). In 1938 (age 15), he enrolled in an aviation school. However, when circumstances forced him to leave he took up at a university in Japan and while there was exposed to karate. Enamored with the art, he began studying Okinawan karate under Giko Funakoshi, the son of Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi. Let's put it this way: the training stuck. Along with this, he eventually moved to Tokyo and began training with Gichin himself for two years before getting involved in the style of Goju-ryu.

In fact, throughout his lifetime Oyama connected with several more outstanding instructors including So Nei Chu, Yoshida Kotaro, Matsuhei Mori, Gogen Yamaguchi, and even trained in judo at Sone Dojo, where he achieved 4th Dan status.

Early Kyokushin History

So Nei Chu had a particularly profound effect on Oyama as an instructor.

As the story goes, he compelled him to follow the martial way in his life and convinced him to set out on a retreat to a mountain hideout (at Mt Kiyosumi) in order to train his mind and body (the first of many).

By the time Oyama broke from the Goju-Ryu style that he had achieved 8th dan status in and opened his own dojo named "Oyama Dojo" in Tokyo in 1953, Master So's influence on the martial arts he practiced was very clear. And by 1957, his teachings, which were very tough, practical, and contact-oriented, were named "Kyokushin" by him during a ceremony.

In 1964, Oyama formed the "International Karate Organization Kyokushinkaikan" (IKOK), to organize the many schools of Kyokushin. He also sent instructors to many other countries in order to spread the word of his style of fighting. Upon his death, as is usually the case, several splinter groups formed under the Kyokushin heading.

Kyokushin Characteristics

Kyokushin is arguably the first full contact karate style. In other words, students practice hard sparring with no gloves in order to emulate situations they might encounter on the street as much as possible. Kicks, hand strikes, and sometimes knees are utilized in practice.

In competition, a variety of full force strikes are allowed to the body.

Hand strikes are not allowed to the face, though kicks are.

Kyokushin is a hard martial arts style that emphasizes more circular, than linear movements. However, given Oyama's background in both Shotokan (more linear) and Goju-ryu (more circular), elements of both can be found within the art.

Kyokushin Training

Training is comprised of kata (forms), kihon (exercise technique), and kumite (the hard sparring referred to earlier).

100 Man Kumite

The 100-man kumite is a challenge that was both invented and first completed by Mas Oyama. It is a test of Kyokushin skill, as well as physical and mental endurance that consists of 100 rounds of sparring against ideally 100 opponents (one and a half to two minutes per round). Oyama himself reportedly completed the kumite on three separate occasions, and only 17 people are known to have finished the 100 Man Kumite to date.

Other Famous Kyokushin Practitioners

  • Steve Arneil: Arneil is president of the International Federation of Karate and was the first person to complete the 100 Man Kumite after Oyama himself.
  • Francisco "Chiquinho" Filho: This Brazilian Kyokushin Karateka and retired K-1 kickboxer holds the very rare distinction of having completed the 100 Man Kumite on more than one occasion.
  • Georges St. Pierre: Widely known as one of the greatest athletes and grapplers to ever participate in MMA competition, St. Pierre holds a black belt in Kyokushin.